Working well together as a team can be challenging when all the team members are in the same office, but in the globalized world of today with online learning and telecommuting becoming the new norm, virtual teams are now very common. So how do you overcome the challenges of team building so you can function as a high performance team when you and your team members are in different locations and sometimes in different time zones?
To answer that question we must first define what a work team is. According to Trillium Teams “Work teams are based on the concept that the team members have the right mix of complementary skills and they need to work together to be able to achieve their task. The purpose of a team and its performance goals are tied to each other and both must be clear to meet success. A good team understands the purpose of working together and they have developed a common approach on how they work together, as well as hold themselves accountable for the outcome”
So how do teams accomplish this? They do so by creating a team charter. A team charter provides the framework for developing project purpose, membership roles, goals, objectives, performance standards and action plans that will assist the team in reaching its desired outcomes while minimizing conflict. As the Trillium Teamsnote, “A team charter is a simple document which outlines the purpose and goals of the team. The process of creating this together is a great team building tool. This will compel everyone to clarify team norms, roles and responsibilities, escalation methods, etc. As well, the charter provides a written document everyone can refer to, especially new members of the team.”
Keep in mind that a virtual work team is not much different than a traditional work team, the key difference is the mode of communication. While traditional teams communicate face to face, virtual team members interact electronically. This is accomplished via audio conferencing, video conferencing, and web conferencing. To ensure a successful virtual meeting, planning is essential. This is done by the meeting facilitator who prepares clearly defined agendas to clarify the purpose of each meeting and include any deadline driven action steps for each member. Even if the team is not directly dependent on each other for work related results, holding routine virtual meetings is a great way to promote open communication and information sharing.
Communication is the foundation to everything successful and is key to creating high performance teams. Being able to communicate openly involves trusting your teammates enough to share your honest in-put in a non-threatening environment. Promoting a culture of open and honest communication is essential. This consists of getting to know each other on a personal level, understanding each member’s communication style and seeing the value in the diversity of each team member.
Holding regular team meetings is also critical. Meeting at a minimum of twice a month is recommended to keep the lines of communication open and to move the team projects forward.